Sarawak Reaffirms Commitment to Maintaining Biodiversity in 2011

By Asia Newswire, PRNE
Sunday, February 27, 2011

KUCHING, Sarawak, Malaysia, March 1, 2011 - The Government of Sarawak successfully balanced economic development with
environmental protection in 2010. As the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy
(SCORE) initiative surges forward in 2011, the Government has reaffirmed its
commitment to protecting forest cover and ensuring biodiversity.

Sarawak's rapid economic development has dramatically improved
the lives of Sarawakians. As new industries have arisen, residential,
educational and infrastructure projects have been established in the State.
In order to protect the environment from the increasing pressures of economic
development, the Government of Sarawak has introduced a robust system of

Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud said: "Sarawak has
demonstrated its commitment to protecting and enhancing the biodiversity of
its forests for nearly a century. Over this period, Sarawak has introduced a
robust and comprehensive legal and institutional framework through which a
successful programme of sustainable forest management has been established.
The Government of Sarawak is dedicated to ensuring that our diverse and
intricate ecosystem is protected for future generations."

Sarawak is covered by 10.338 million hectares (103,380 km sq)
of forest, which comprises 84% of the State's total surface area and equates
to 4.1 hectares (0.041 km sq) per person. There are 247 species of trees in
Sarawak, more than any other tropical rainforest in the world, supporting 185
species of mammals, 530 species of bird and 154 species of snake. Sarawak is
also abundant in flora with 280 species of palm flora, representing 10% of
the world's total, and 10,000 to 12,000 species of flowering plant.

Sarawak has a long history of forest conservation, with its
Forest Department established in 1919 to manage and conserve the State's
forest resources. Through collaboration with other government agencies, such
as the Sarawak Forestry Corporation and the Sarawak Timber Industry
Development Corporation, the Forest Department ensures forests are maintained
and preserved.

A fundamental cornerstone of the Government of Sarawak's
commitment to sustainable forest management is the Forest Management Plan,
which forms part of the Forest Timber Licence. This means that timber
harvesting is limited to particular units of land. Each unit has a plan which
dictates how harvesting can be carried out, the species that can be removed,
the minimum cutting diameter limits, the annual harvest area and the volume
of timber allowed. The plan also sets out the penalties for damaging residual

Sarawak's wood resources comprise a vital component of the
State's economic output. However, the rate at which trees can be cut down
annually is capped under the Ninth Malaysia Plan at 170,000 hectares (1700 km
sq), or about 1.7% of the total forest area. In addition, to ensure
sustainability, the State operates a comprehensive reforestation programme.
So far the Forest Department has issued 45 licences for Planted Forests
covering an area of 2.8 million hectares (28,000 km sq), thereby reducing
Sarawak's dependency on natural forests. From this, one million hectares
(10,000 km sq) will be developed for planting fast growing species. It is
estimated that about 15 million cubic metres will be produced annually from
these plantations. The remaining area covered by the Licences for Planted
Forest will be for conservation.

The Government of Sarawak also acknowledges the importance of
the State's forests in sustaining indigenous populations. As such, the
government has set aside 12,800 hectares (128 km sq) of primary forest for
the Penan people to continue with their preferred nomadic way of life. In
addition, the Penan can also use Gunung Mulu National Park (52,900 hectares
or 529 km sq).

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